8 Solar Energy Pros and Cons: Is Solar Right for You? (2023)

8 Solar Energy Pros and Cons: Is Solar Right for You? (2023)

In this EcoWatch guide on solar energy pros and cons, you’ll learn:

  • How you can reduce electric bills and carbon emissions
  • How much you could save from solar
  • What are the pros and cons of solar

EcoWatch has helped many homeowners learn about of solar energy and will help you decide whether going solar is the right choice for you.

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Pros and Cons of Solar Energy: What You Need to Know

By installing a home solar system, you can use solar panels to harness the sun’s rays, convert them into electrical energy and use that energy to power your home. This can offset or even completely replace the energy you’d typically get from your utility company.

While the advantages of solar energy are plenty, there are also some drawbacks. Here are the top solar energy pros and cons to consider when deciding if solar panels are worth it for your home.

Pros of Solar Energy Cons of Solar Energy
Solar energy is a renewable resource Solar panel manufacturing has a carbon footprint
Provides long-term savings Expensive upfront cost
Increase value of your home Location-dependent
Enables energy independence Solar panels require a lot of space
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  • Expensive
  • Customer service varies by local dealer
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Blue Raven Solar

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  • Industry-leading in-house financing
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  • Doesn't offer solar batteries (coming 2022)
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  • Industry-leading warranty coverage
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  • Some reported communication issues
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Benefits of Solar Energy

We’ll begin with a summary of the biggest advantages of solar energy.

solar energy pros and cons

1) Solar energy is a renewable source of power

Solar energy is a renewable source of energy, meaning it comes from natural sources and replenishes at a faster rate than it is consumed. Unlike non-renewable energy sources like coal and other fossil fuels, solar energy is harnessed without creating any emissions in the process.

This means that by using solar panels, you help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, like carbon dioxide, therefore lessening your environmental impact and doing your part to mitigate the worsening of climate change. 

Although solar panels aren’t perfect, they represent the most sustainable and cost-effective modern method to power a home in the U.S.

2) Solar energy provides significant long-term savings

Apart from the obvious environmental benefits, one of the most significant perks of solar energy is economic: By using energy from the sun rather than electricity from your utility company, you can significantly reduce your household energy costs. 

According to our estimates, the average household in the U.S. can generate over $20,000 in long-term savings by switching to solar panels. The average solar system lasts for two to three decades, which means that your energy savings will pay for the system itself over time.1

For example:

  • Upfront cost of a solar panel system after incentives: $12,500
  • Annal energy savings: $1,250
  • Payback period on system: 10 years
  • Total 25-year savings minus initial cost of system: $18,750
Projected lifetime savings from going solar

As you can see, installing solar panels is an investment that focuses on maximizing your long-term savings.

3) Investing in a solar power system can increase the value of your home

Several studies have shown that home buyers are willing to pay more for homes with solar panels. Note that this helps offset one of the primary cons of solar energy, which is the steep startup cost of solar panels — but more on that later.

Here’s a bonus as well — most states offer property tax exemptions on renewable energy systems like solar panels. This means that even though a solar array adds around $20,000 of value to your property, your taxes won’t increase accordingly.

4) Enables energy independence

Tired of unexpected spikes on your bills or inconsistent service from your utility provider? Installing solar panels is often the most practical way for you to increase your energy independence, meaning you’re less impacted by the shifting costs and performance of your public power provider. 

Increasing your energy independence provides a handful of benefits, most notably including: 

  • Allowing predictable energy costs, making it easier to budget years into the future
  • Increased safety, via the ability to store and use backup power in the event of a grid outage or extreme weather event (requires a solar battery)

In other words, if you can generate your own electricity, you don’t have to rely on your utility company for it — especially if you install a solar battery for excess energy storage. We should note that many local governments still require homeowners with solar systems to connect to the electrical grid, so solar users who live populated areas won’t be able to go fully off-grid, but they may be able to earn net metering credits through their utility company.

If you’d like to connect with a solar installer to see what financing options may be available, click one of the buttons below:

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Disadvantages of Solar Energy

There are obviously some significant benefits of solar energy, but it’s only fair to outline the downsides, too. A few of the most notable disadvantages include:

1) Solar panel manufacturing has a carbon footprint

Although solar energy is an inexhaustible, renewable resource, the main tool that we use to harness that energy is not. 

Solar panels are still an imperfect technology; the resources that it takes to produce them (such as aluminum, copper and silicon) are scarce and often hard to acquire. There is also a lot of concern about what to do with the end-of-life (EOL) product as well, especially older models that were not designed to be recycled. 

2) The upfront cost of going solar can be quite expensive

According to some estimates, the average cost to invest in a solar system is around $13,000, and for some homeowners, may exceed $20,000. The specific number will vary according to the size of your home, your household energy needs and the type of solar panels you choose. 

For example, if you make your own DIY solar panels, you’ll cut down on installation costs, or if you want to get the most efficient solar panels, they’ll cost significantly more.

There are plenty of ways to offset the cost, including tax incentives, earnings through net metering, increased home value and financing options. For most homeowners, the solar payback period is around 15 years, which is less than half of the 30-to-40 year lifespan of most systems. 

Plus, solar panel systems are low maintenance once installed, so you won’t have to worry about upkeep costs. Still, there’s no getting around it: Making the switch to solar energy is a significant investment.

3) Solar energy can be very location-dependent

You may have a roof that’s ideal for a solar energy system and still not be a good candidate for solar energy. Why? Because to take full advantage of the benefits of solar panels, you need to have a roof or yard that gets consistent and direct daily sun exposure. 

While photovoltaic (PV) solar panels still work on cloudy days, they’re most efficient when soaking up direct sunlight. So, if you live in a part of the country that tends to be pretty cloudy or grey, or if your roof is partly shielded by trees or by neighboring homes, you may not get the full benefits of solar to justify the cost of installation.

Additionally, the total savings that you can generate with solar depends on the existing cost of electricity in your area. If you live in an area with very affordable electricity, your utility bills are likely too low to justify the costs of solar. Solar performs best in areas where electricity is expensive, like California. 

4) Solar panel arrays take up a lot of space

Solar panels are probably larger than you think, with most residential panels about 5 feet long and 3 feet wide individually. What most homeowners don’t consider when thinking about making the switch to solar is that not all roofs can fit an array large enough to justify the price of installation. 

The average household needs about a 9 kilowatt (kW) solar panel system to meet its needs.2 A 9 kW solar array, complete with an inverter, requires about 25 solar panels and can take up nearly 530 square feet of space. 

That doesn’t include the space taken up on your roof by obstructions like skylights, chimneys or satellite dishes. For safety reasons, most city zoning laws also require that installers leave at least a foot of space between the panels and the edge of your roof. 

With all that in mind, can your roof fit 25 solar panels? 

Even if homeowners have the space for solar, they may not invest because of their big and bulky nature. In a recent survey conducted by Ecowatch, 31% of homeowners said they wouldn’t install solar panels because they think they’re ugly. However, community solar does offer a viable alternative for friends or neighbors to share a solar array without having to install it on a roof. Think of it as a shared subscription plan to clean energy.

One last consideration — if you have an older home, especially one with slate or cedar tiles on the roof, then you may not even be able to install a rooftop solar system without first replacing your roof.

Check out this more detailed video discussing the truth about solar panels:

Weighing the Solar Energy Pros and Cons

So, do the advantages of solar energy outweigh the disadvantages? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer here, as different homeowners may experience different levels of savings when they make the jump to solar. 

Before investing in a system, make sure you do your due diligence. Research local sun exposure, tax incentives and your own household energy expenses. And, get quotes from a few solar providers that can give you more details about how much a new system will cost you. By weighing the pros and cons of solar energy, you can make the most advantageous decision for your household.

If you’d like to connect with a solar installer to see what financing options may be available, click one of the buttons below:

FAQ: Solar Energy Pros and Cons

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Article author
Writer and editor with more than a decade’s experience in journalism. Josh worked for Christianity Today for seven years, and has contributed to special assignments for Apple Music and iTunes. Josh lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife, Kati, and two sons, Henry and Dylan.While he mainly focuses on musical journalism he is excited to save the earth on article at a time through sustainability best practices articles as well.
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Expert reviewer
Melissa is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainability studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a nonprofit that’s featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.

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    • Most efficient panels on the market
    • National coverage
    • Cradle to Cradle sustainability certification
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    • Expensive
    • Customer service varies by local dealer
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    SunPower Panels
    25-year all-inclusive warranty

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